Depression and anxiety may affect anybody but women are more vulnerable to it, in fact twice as likely as men. About one in 10 women aged 18-44 years in the United States experienced symptoms of major depression in the past year, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women also stand a higher chance of being afflicted with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and phobias. A combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors are held responsible for the same.
Researchers also believe that since women undergo hormonal changes post puberty, they are prone to many health complications. Here are the three hormone-related conditions that may put women at the risk of anxiety and depression:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): It is the most common disorder caused by abnormality of the endocrine system. Around eight to 20 percent women of reproductive age are affected by PCOS. While PCOS may produce different symptoms in different women, some of the common symptoms may include polycystic ovaries, anovulation (no ovulation), excess androgen (a male sex hormone), metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance. According to the results of a survey published in the journal Human Reproduction, around 60 percent of women diagnosed with PCOS reported moderate to severe levels of psychological distress. In a 2016 meta-analysis published in the Dovepress, patients with PCOS reported higher rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms compared to healthy women.
Postpartum stress: It is common for the new-moms to experience ‘baby blues;’ however, some women continue to experience sadness for a longer period post childbirth that begins to meddle with everyday affairs. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 15 percent women in the U.S. experience postpartum depression. Researchers have linked the mother’s susceptibility to depression during the initial few months of childbirth to hormonal shifts as levels of estrogen and progesterone see drastic increase during this period. Women with a history of depression before or during pregnancy, or those who have experienced stressful life events during pregnancy, have low levels of social or partner support, low socioeconomic status, anxiety during pregnancy and obstetric complications are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with the condition. If left untreated, maternal depression may lead to serious complications in both the mother and the infant. In addition, such women are vulnerable to alcohol or illicit substance abuse. The condition is also associated with suicide and injuries to self and the baby.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism: Women are at greater risk of developing thyroid disease over men. According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), women have five to eight times higher risk of developing thyroid problems, as compared to men and one in eight women is expected to develop a thyroid problem during her lifetime. Both hyperthyroidism (over production of thyroid hormone) and hypothyroidism (under production of thyroid hormone) have been found to be associated with depression. The role of thyroid hormone in regulating menstruation may also result in mood-related problems in women with abnormal levels of the hormones. Very high or low levels of thyroid hormone can affect periods by making them very light, heavy or irregular inducing stress, anger and irritability. Such symptoms, if left untreated, may take the shape of a full blown anxiety disorder.
Managing depression in women
Both anxiety and depression disorders are treatable. Depending on the symptoms and severity, the treatment approaches may include medication and psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, it is important to see an expert for the right diagnosis and treatment for effective outcome.
If someone close to you displays any symptoms of depression or associated mental health problems, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to get assistance in finding mental health facilities in California For information on mental health centers in California, you can chat online with experts or call our 24/7 helpline number (855) 559-3923.